Offering a unique insight into the Scottish Area Wide Network (SWAN), Paul McLaren, Capita’s Solution Architect for SWAN, provides a vision of an upwardly mobile and connected Scotland that’s leading the way in transformative networks that are both technologically advanced and benefiting a modern society.
Building secure and reliable IT networks and providing a more connected society is a common rallying cry from industry experts and politicians. Connectivity helps deliver digital transformation, but what does it look like in reality?
SWAN is possibly one of Scotland’s public sector’s best kept secrets. With over 50 organisations, over six thousand sites and more than seven thousand kilometres of fibre connecting everywhere from the remote majesty of the Shetland Islands, to the close-knit townships of the Scottish Borders, SWAN really is a significant piece of transformative and enabling infrastructure.
So, when you have built such a large network, the big question is, where do you go from here?
Looking at current global technology trends, more specifically the Internet of Things (IoT), we’re seeing some large numbers and even bigger statements being thrown around, such as targets to introduce over 25 billion connected devices over the next decade. This all sounds very impressive however, would it not make sense to join the connectivity and IoT together using the scale and reach of SWAN to allow the Scottish public to achieve something truly transformational?
IoT is the trailblazing technology behind Smart Cities, Smart Buildings and Smart Devices; devices that automatically collect and send information using radio to network connected gateways for analysis. The analysis of information can transform business processes through automation and predictive results; reducing the need for manual intervention by staff, making services more efficient and reducing immediate and future costs. To help make this a reality, SWAN is rolling out LoRaWAN gateways to customer sites in 2019 that can be shared by any SWAN customer.
Coincidentally, we see that IoT is one of the few technology trends that really does span right across business areas and is something that service users can relate to, for tangible and visible solutions. Furthermore, we are pleased to be doing this with a likeminded Cisco, who are supporting and supplementing this with an acceleration program to develop a range of IoT propositions that will bring the network to life and deliver a range of business benefits.
It’s the personification of ‘the art of the possible’ and, to give you a taste of what has been delivered, we only have to look at the ’Water Safety Monitoring – Legislation Compliance’, sure proof of a concept that was used in two Highland Council schools to monitor water pipe temperature every 15 minutes, sending real-time data to an online dashboard. This replaced the ‘man in a van’ approach that cost up to £50 per visit, per month.
Another historical challenge is ‘Asset Tracking – Cost Reduction’ where assisting staff to locate assets with IoT starts to finally make this a cost-effective initiative to deploy, as you can use tiny battery power GPS trackers that last for years.
A third use, and one that I personally identify with, being an ex-NHS employee, is ‘Health and Social Care - Early Intervention’. In line with strategies to reduce health and social care costs with the use of IoT and smart wearables, we can transform the lives of vulnerable people, such as the elderly living on their own. By using devices such as motion sensors, environmental monitors, smart scales and lights in a smart home setting, data can be captured to understand what ‘normal’ looks like. Through AI techniques to analyse the data when a deviation is detected in the person’s lifestyle, early intervention can be provided, thereby limiting the number of potential doctor and emergency care episodes.
It's going to be an interesting time over the next few years for SWAN. The foundations have been laid to do something impressive in the Scottish public sector, but Capita can’t do this alone; we need our customers and partners to come together and use SWAN to deliver the vision of a smarter and more connected Scotland.
This article first appeared in Public Sector Focus, February 2019